So last week, I took my mother to Great Falls National Park. It's a spot where the Potomac River runs through some rapids and low falls, and it's quite a spectacular view. It's also one of the Capitol Area's lesser-known attractions, even though it's only 15 miles from downtown Washington, DC. It has access points on both the Virginia and Maryland sides of the river, and on this day we were in Maryland.
The whole river is disrupted by these rapids, a major reason why commercial navigation of the Potomac was impossible.
Here's a view of a section of the adjacent C&O Canal with the canal boat restored by the Park Service visible at the far end.
Here's a close-up of the lock gate. The doors are opened and closed manually, and so are the gates in each door that let the water in and out. The lock is original, although much of the woodwork of the gates has been replaced over the years. The locks--74 of them over the 184-mile length of the canal, were each operated by a lock keeper who lived in the adjacent lockhouse provided by the canal company. The pay was nominal, but they got a house and a garden plot, and they could trade with the boatmen for things that they needed or wanted to sell.
Here's Mom again.
The mule team pulls the boat down the canal while the guide talks about it. In the old days, there would be two mule teams of two mules each. Two would ride and two would pull, and every six hours they'd be switched out. There were two rooms on the canal boats typically; one housed the mules and the other housed the boatman's family, who usually traveled with him and acted as crew. The whole family lived and slept in the one room.
After a bit of a hike down the canal, the mules are stopped.
As an added bonus, there was a troop of Union soldiers there, demonstrating their muskets and close-order drills, and telling us stories about serving with the likes of Grant, Hooker, Sherman and Old NFO.
All in all, a darn nice day. weather could not have been better and Mom enjoyed herself.